What to Know
- The I-Team obtained a classified, internal report compiled by The Strategic Intelligence Unit (SIU) that documented the surveillance
- It showed 14 members of the group "We The People," had their backgrounds checked for criminal activity or any contact with police
- Court filings obtained by NBC 4 New York Monday showed a $300,000 settlement had been reached in the case
More than a dozen members of a well-respected local community group in Rockland County have settled their racial profiling and illegal surveillance lawsuit against Clarkstown, its police chief and several other top local law enforcement officials, according to court filings obtained by the I-Team Monday.
The 14 plaintiffs won a $300,000 settlement covering all claims for damages, costs, disbursements and legal fees, pending court approval. There is no admission of wrongdoing or liability on the part of the town in the settlement.
In September, the I-Team obtained a classified, internal report compiled by The Strategic Intelligence Unit (SIU), a joint venture of the Rockland County district attorney's office and Clarkstown police department, that showed the 14 members of the group "We The People," had their backgrounds checked for criminal activity or any contact with police.
"I feel violated," Mel Hancock, a father and grandfather, said when he saw his picture and private personal information detailed.
In 2015, Hancock directed a production of a play "A Clean Shoot?" The play, sponsored by "We the People," focused on the mindset of a white police officer who mistakenly shot a black undercover cop. Hancock said the play was written by a law enforcement officer.
Rockland County District Attorney Thomas Zugibe told the I-Team the word "shoot" triggered a review by the SIU in an effort to protect "We the People" from potential threats. He said the same was done with members of "Black Lives Matter."
Both Zugibe and then-Police Chief Michael Sullivan had told the I-Team the SIU only monitored publicly available social media.
"The town’s insurer, The Travelers, independently decided to settle the lawsuit brought by We the People and bring this unfortunate incident to a close," Vincent Balascio, director of finance for the town, said in a statement. "It’s sad that the actions of Chief Sullivan and a police sergeant have cost the town $300,000."
Sullivan is currently suspended with pay by the town board and was found guilty on several administrative charges unrelated to the improper surveillance allegations. A decision on outstanding administrative charges, also unrelated to the lawsuit, is expected next month.
Richard Glickel, an attorney for him, reiterated Sullivan's past statements that he "never ordered or condoned -- nor did the Clarkstown Police Department conduct -- any surveillance (illegal or otherwise of the group."